If there is one man responsible for the Barça philosophy and style then it is Johan Cruyff. A legend in his own time, Cruyff became Barça coach in 1988 when Barça had only won two Liga titles in the previous 28 years. His dream team pushed Real Madrid into the shadows and won 11 titles in his eight years in charge with a style of attacking risk-taking football that was admired globally. If Barça beat FC Porto in the Uefa Super Cup final tomorrow night in Monaco it will be Pep Guardiola’s 12th title as Barça’s coach, which will beat Cruyff’s record in the incredibly short space of just three years and two months. Whether we win or not tomorrow night I think what we are experiencing with Guardiola and this team of extraordinary individuals can be described as truly remarkable.
Tomorrow’s game will be not be easy. Porto are a very good side who have dominated Portuguese football in recent years winning five of the last six league titles and the last three Portuguese cups as well. They have been unbeaten in the league now for 41 matches and last season they won the league with an incredible record of 27 wins, three draws and no defeats. Porto also showed their pedigree in Europe last season winning the Europa League beating Sevilla and Villarreal on the way. However, their impressive record last year was in a big way due to the coaching brilliance of Andre Villas-Boas who has since joined Chelsea and the goalscoring prowess of Radamel Falcao who moved to Atletico Madrid for €40 million after his record breaking 17 goals in the Europa League. Villas-Boas has been replaced by his assistant Vitor Pereira while for goals they now rely on the rather intimidatingly named Hulk who scored twice in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Gil Vicente FC.
Barça will be without Piqué who joins Maxwell, Puyol and Afellay on the injured list but Alexis Sanchez is fit again after missing out on Monday’s manita against Napoli. I expect Pep Guardiola would have liked to start with the Wembley XI for this game as a reward to those players but Piqué’s injury means that Adriano will probably come in at left back with Abidal moving across to partner Mascherano in the middle of the defence. Apart from that I think it will be the same as at Wembley which will leave Cesc Fabregas and Alexis on the bench, however, I’d wager there’s a pretty good chance of seeing both our new signings coming on at some point during the second half.
I imagine most fans are pretty confident after seeing how well we played in the Gamper but these European Supercups have always been a complicated thing. Barça have previously played in seven finals and have only won three (1992, 1997, 2009). I remember the final we lost 3-0 to Sevilla in 2006 which was really the beginning of the end for the Rijkaard/Ronaldinho team, and then the last victory with Pedro’s extra-time winner against Shakhtar Donetsk which was an extremely difficult game. The pitch that day was awful and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be great tomorrow so it might not be such a fluid game. The main danger for us is that Porto may prove to be fitter than us which may make the last 20 minutes the most difficult (Fabregas and Alexis could be vital here). Also with a league match with Villarreal back on for Monday night we could do without going to extra time. For this reason I want to see us go out strongly and look for a two-goal lead before 60 minutes, this unfortunately is not so simple and we may end up with a tough fight on our hands.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Porto: Helton; Pereira (or Sapunaru), Rolando, Otamendi, Fucile; Guarin, Souza, Moutinho; Varela (or James Rodriguez), Hulk, Kleber.
My prediction: Barça 2 Porto 0
Coming up very soon – news on the Champions League draw